Lessons from foreign investments in Liberia
Conclusion 1b:

Lip-service to the 'Liberianization policy'

As this study made clear, the Americo-Liberian preference for foreigners over tribal Liberians to build up a modern economy dates from the beginning of the 20th century, if not earlier. The tribal people were merely used by the political elite if they were needed. Thus, tribal people were granted citizenship when the Government needed to justify its claim and consequent defense of the Hinterland. This happened in 1907, during the administration of President Arthur Barclay.

The granting of suffrage and other political rights had a very limited meaning given the country’s de facto one party structure and the power of the ruling True Whig Party. When an increasing number of foreign companies entered the country and when in surrounding areas the colonial powers withdrew, the Liberian Government introduced a major administrative and political reform, granting the tribal people of the Hinterland representation in the National Legislature during the first half of the 1960s. This decision, however, was accompanied by a move in which the coastal counties, where the Americo-Liberian population dominated the tribal people politically, were expanded to the detriment of the Hinterland area (1964).

When, in the following decade, the official Liberian policy with respect to the use of Liberian manpower by foreign investors became one of 'Liberianization' this mainly referred to the employment of highly-qualified people who almost by definition were Americo-Liberians.1 To some extent, the Liberianization policy also referred to the Liberianization of the companies' capital. 

Since the number of Liberians with a good education, often obtained abroad, was increasing and since the already overpopulated ministries could no longer absorb those who had returned from abroad after successfully completing their studies, there was a need to find well paid jobs for these relatives, friends and political allies of those in power. This, in fact, formed the basis of the 'Liberianization' policy which in 1973 was introduced by President William Tolbert.

Internationally, Tolbert’s 'Liberianization-policy' did not stand alone. A large number of African countries adopted similar measures, in the wake of an increased awareness that there was a strong need for economic independence. This happened notably in raw materials producing developing countries. This followed the historically unparalleled hike in oil prices in the early 1970s and also led to international conferences and declarations in particular by leaders and advocates of the the so-called group of Non-Aligned Countries.

  1. Preference for foreigners in companies owned by Liberians
  2. Preference for foreigners in state-owned enterprises
  3. Liberian investments abroad


The True Whig Party,
also known as Liberian Whig Party, was Liberia's only legal political party for over 100 years, from 1878 to the coup d'etat of 1980.






Tribal people were not excluded from modern education but had hardly access to it - except when 'adopted' and raised by an Americo-Liberian family. One of the best-known examples is the present Head of State of Liberia. Another example is the only surviving member of President Tolbert’s cabinet, shot in a horrific public scene on one of Monrovia’s beaches, in the aftermath of the 1980 coup. It was Minister of Information Johnny McClain, a Bassa, who was raised in one of the family’s of the Tolbert-clan.











Lessons from Foreign Investments



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